Chinese leaders take charge of crash recovery
(CNN) -- Top Chinese leaders stayed up late into Tuesday night to direct rescue operations after a China Northern Airlines MD-82 jet ploughed into the sea near Dalian around 2130 local time.
Senior Politburo members including President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and Vice-Premier Li Lanqing gave instructions to civilian and military departments to rush teams to the crash scene.
Vice-President Hu Jintao, who had returned from the U.S. last weekend, was also involved in high-level consultations about salvage procedures.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday that Jiang had ordered the Ministry of Communications, civil aviation authorities, as well as the Navy to dispatch rescue experts and personnel to Dalian.
A team led by the Deputy Secretary-General of the State Council Long Quan, which included officials from the Foreign Trade Ministry, the police, civil aviation authorities, and the Ministry of Communications was directing the investigations in Dalian.
Some 30 vessels, including four from the navy were on scene within an hour of the crash.
Aviation analysts in Beijing said one area of investigation was the safety standards of China Northern Airlines and its planes.
The company was launched in 1990 and it has more than 80 aircraft, including 24 MD-82s.
In July last year a China Northern Airlines MD-82 aircraft had a relatively minor accident at a Japanese airport when the plane's wing hit the ground on landing.
There were no casualties in that incident and the plane returned to China four hours later.
The latest crash comes as Beijing ups its efforts to boost tourism -- both by luring foreign tourists and encouraging newly rich Chinese to travel within China.
Given the widely-publicized crash of a China Airlines plane in South Korea last month, more accidents could chip away at the generally good reputation of China's airlines -- and put a damper on the tourist trade.
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